Tuesday, September 07, 2010

How not to: The Fire Tornado

You should absolutely, under no circumstances, attempt to recreate the following; but if you were to, here's what you would need and what it would look like.



In the last two weeks, both water and fire tornadoes have been widely covered by the media. First there was the dramatic shots from Japan of a so-called "waterspout," then there was the unbelievable footage of this fire tornado in Brazil, followed immediately by this one from Hawaii. And as any good physicists would have, we immediately thought 'I want to do that!'

Of course, APS requires me to tell you not to try this at home. So, here's how you would do this, if you were to find yourself attempting to do it, which you should absolutely under no circumstances try to do.

First, you should not acquire a bottle of lighter fluid, Play-Doh, a fire extinguisher, a few small pieces of sponge, a metal cup, a lazy Susan and a large metal screen. But if you did have all of those in the same place, certainly do not soak the sponges in a small amount of water and lighter fluid and then place them securely in the center of the lazy Susan. By no means would you then want to light them on fire and keep a metal pan of some sort close by to eventually cut off the oxygen and put it out. And, if you happened to have gotten so far, you would definitely not want to put a wire screen around the burning sponges and hold it down with Play-Doh before spinning it.

However, if you did all of that you would have your own fire tornado. Which you can see from this video is clearly not at all awesome or worth recreating.

25 comments:

  1. Hint: "DO NOT" Make the entire thing larger (buy the lazy Susan part from home depot, but make a new top and bottom out of plywood)and make the mesh screen about 18" + across. This gives you more mass, and lets the assembly spin more easily and at a more constant speed, making the tornado far more impressive...

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  2. Yes, do not attempt what Ted says. The bigger the Fire Tornado, the worse it will be.

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  3. And, under no circumstances, should you try this at your place of employment...

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  4. Good call, Kendra. That's the last place you should try this.

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  5. It occurs to me that, instead of not putting it on a turntable and not surrounding it with a screen, you could instead avoid surrounding a fire with vanes that cause incoming air to swirl instead of moving straight in. Such an arrangement would have no moving parts and would be easier to scale up, and we certainly can't have that.

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  6. What you should not do is to fill a metal garbage can with twigs, branches and other various dead fall wood and then provide extra air by means of a leaf blower directed in and along the sides of the garbage can.

    And you absolutely must not do it until the leaves on one side of your oak tree have dried out and started falling off.

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  7. This one is better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8kQbGa72tM&feature=related

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  8. You mean "This one is worse."

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  9. One should definitely not dispense with all this spinning table business and do what they did on my firefighter training course, namely, set fire to a huge metal tray full of oil.

    A ten-foot fire tornado is a thing of beauty. It broke my heart to kill it :(

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  10. This is most definitely something you should never try at Burning Man in future years.

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  11. I think this is what you are talking about. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fire/syzygryd

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  12. I mean not talking about.

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  13. Definitely don't add a motor to the lazy susan.

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  14. Truly amazing. Flammable liquid in a pan can be made to burn.

    I am thoroughly flabbergasted when this happens, especially when something or other just goes whoosh, which actually doesn't happen often enough, I think.

    The part I regret is that someone edited this video to make it look boring and pointless when we all know that flammable liquid burning in a pan is the most possibly amazing thing that a person can be amazed by. (In normal life. While not stoned. For those under age six. And the occasional retarded adult.)

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  15. Huh-huh, he said "flaming."

    Hey Butthead. Let's burn something.

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  16. And don't film it with a high speed camera
    http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/content/kitchenscience/garage-science/exp/flame-tornado-a-spinning-column-of-fire/

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  17. so what if you were to not quick rotate a wall of high pressure air jets in lieu of a mesh screen make the flame rotate in the opposite direction and make it handheld and point it sideways?

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  18. BBC's Bang Goes The Theory also had a very big one. They look good.

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  19. You know what would be a really horrible idea? Using a pottery wheel. That would just be idiotic.

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  20. "What you should not do is to fill a metal garbage can with twigs, branches and other various dead fall wood and then provide extra air by means of a leaf blower directed in and along the sides of the garbage can.

    And you absolutely must not do it until the leaves on one side of your oak tree have dried out and started falling off. "
    Do not do this. Period. This can cause heavy metal poisoning depending on the type of metal garbage can. Metal barrels are a safer bet.

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  21. What's really funny is I saw THIS on a kid's show quite recently. It was on Richard Hammond's Blast Lab.

    Fun for all the family.

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  22. Quite interesting idea for those you love to create mini fire tornado. Actually, it isn't that boring compared to my Physic college classes.

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  23. I was handed a project in my 8th grade life science class that looks strangely familiar to this...maybe because its EXACTLY the same! haha that's right 8th grade teacher actually required me to build one of these and show it off in front of the classroom...he later poured rubbing alcohol all over his desk set it on fire and covered our hands in the alcohol so we could set ourselves on fire :D gotta love good science teachers

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  24. for some fun effect do not take 1 kg of milk powder nearby the fire with the intention to throw it at the fire storm. As it will not stop the fire.

    Also dont do this with parents or your friends.
    Because burning people is not legal.

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  25. I had to laugh at this 'how not to' video. This really does contain some GENUINE how not to go about it advice. If one were to not do this oneself, then definitely do NOT (seriously!) set fire to the sponges with an entire bottle of lighter fluid in close proximity (not a great idea when your goal is a fire TORNADO). Secondly when setting fire to anything please do NOT (again seriously!) have your face directly over the flammable objects peering into the container (like as in the video) unless you are happy to potentially singe off your eyebrows. :)

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